Reflexiones imparciales sobre la humanidad de los Espanoles en las Indias, contra los pretendidos filosofos y politicos. Para ilustrar las historias de MM Raynal y Robertson
Publisher: Joachin Ibarra
lii+315 pages. Octavo (8" x 5 3/4") bound in full leather with gilt lettering to spine. Translated with notes by Pedro Varela y Ulloa. (Palau 196692.) First Spanish edition.
A text that engaged the well-studied debates about the natural history of the Americas and Spain's colonial history. In 1780, in Venice, Juan Nuix published Riflessioni imparziali supra l'umanita degli spagnuoli nell' Indie contro i pretersi filosofi e politici. Nuix, a Catalan living in Italy since the expulsion of the Jesuits, wrote the book to defend Spanish colonialism and historiography against the attacks of Robertson and Raynal. It sailed by the censors in the Council of the Indies, and two separate translations appeared in succession, one in 1782, edited by a member of the Royal Council, Pedro Varela y Ulloa, and another in 1783, by Joseph Nuix, Juan's brother. The Spanish edition sponsored by the crown opened with an essay by Varela y Ulloa, in which he first offered a searing Critique of traditional forms of colonialism, not unlike that put forth by Raynal. After describing military campaigns in foreign lands, from Alexander the Great to Genghis Kahn, as butcheries, Varela y Ulloa went on to claim that the Spanish colonialism was unique. The crimes attributed to Spain in the Indies had been committed by private individuals, who did not represent the nation as a whole, and who had acted as they did while surrounded by hungry cannibals. Moreover, compared with the atrocities committed by other European colonial powers, the actions of the Spaniards looked like misdemeanors. Varela y Ulloa's effort to portray Spanish colonialism as unique benign captured the essence of Nuix's thesis well. Nuix's defense of the record of Spanish colonialism opened with passages that sought to bolster his credibility by stressing that he was a Catalan, and that Catalans had not really participated in the Spanish colonization of the Indies, so that he could not be accused of being partisan. He then articulated a five-pronged defense of Castilian colonial behavior in America, seeking to demonstrate the unreliability of the sources used by Robertson and Raynal, and of their interpretations. Nuix First set out to prove that charges of Spanish cruelty to Amerindians were exaggerations, originally put into circulation by writers such as Las Casas, whose reports on the destruction of the Indies were at the root of most foreign criticisms of Spain. According to Nuix, Las Casas was of Flemish origin, which explained why he had sought to undermine Spain. Las Casas also often contradicted himself, Nuix argued no impartial jury could trust such "an inept" witness. Foreign historians who had echoed Las Casas's allegations were not credible either, not Robertson, whose moderation had prompted him to dismiss Las Casas. Robertson had selected and reinterpreted the testimony of Spanish witnesses when recounting various colonial massacres. Instead of quoting them, moreover, Robertson had manipulated the testimony of witnesses to depict the Amerindians as passive victims of Spanish cruelty. History was not a matter of interpretation, however, but of faithfully presenting the testimony of witnesses, and in that respect, Robertson lacked credibility. In order to prove that Spaniards in America had not behaved like greedy barbarians, Nuix argued that the alleged depopulation caused by the Conquest was the product of factors outside human control. The infantile susceptibility of the natives to disease, for example, was why epidemics had wiped them out. The barrenness of the Americas and the idleness of the originally small number of natives had moved the conquerors to create economies based on mining and large estates. Such economies along with the foreign monopoly on colonial trade, not Spanish cruelty and greed, Nuix contended, were responsible for having slowed both markets and population growth.
Provenance: Book plate of Alberto Parreno, formerly president of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce in New York, to front paste down. Spine head chipped, rubbing to edges and corners, very crisp internally else about a very good copy.
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